Workplace bullying is a very real problem. People like you and me deal with the brutal effects of psychological mistreatment every day. Someone recently asked the following, very important question. It is important to share the question and my answer to TPG Blog readers.
I have some questions on workplace bullying. From the websites and advice given by many advocates, the victim is told to leave his/her job if things don’t improve. Why? It would seem there is an inequity here. The victim is punished financially for being victimized by his/her coworker. What legislation has been introduced (and not passed) that protects a victim’s rights?
Dear Friend, thank you for your questions. Allow me to respond based on my actual experiences and research.
Bullying is Legal: It is perfectly legal to bully employees in the United States as long as it is not racial or sexual based discrimination. It is not illegal to be a jerk in the office. In fact, in some business environments, tyrants tend to be rewarded for their behavior although it has been proven their behavior is destructive, not productive.
What should I do? One might think going to Human Resources would help you resolve the problem. In most cases the bully has political power and influence and Human Resources has overwhelming sided with bullies and management, rather than the target of abuse. HR will likely turn their back on targets unless the abuse is tied to illegal discrimination.
Why should I consider resigning? The long-term effects on bullying targets are treacherous. Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, gastrointestinal disease, headaches, autoimmune diseases, and the list goes on. In addition, the target can have a difficult time working a full-time job after prolonged exposure to the psychological mistreatment at work. Many times the best thing for the employee is to put themselves first and resign.
Confronting the bully: No doubt the target should confront the bully before resigning from their position. It helps to bring someone with you during the confrontation. You need to tell the bully you will not stand for further behavior that is unacceptable. If the bully tries to attack you verbally, simply walk away and tell them you do not have to be subjected to this behavior. If he/she stops future bullying, that is great. If not, you probably should find another job if you can.
Resources: Besides the resources on my website, I highly recommend you read the book, “The Bully at Work” by Dr. Gary Namie, a good friend and absolute expert on the topic. His website is also full of useful information. http://bullyinginstitute.org
Legislation: The Workplace Bullying Institute keeps track of this information. There are currently 12 states that have introduced legislation to prevent workplace bullying. http://workplacebullyinglaw.org